Alcohol and your body

Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Long-term alcohol use can affect the blood leading to anaemia and low platelets.

Alcohol immediately affects co-ordination and increases the likelihood of injury, including from road traffic accidents, assaults and falls.

High levels of blood alcohol affect the brain’s thought processes and the co-ordination of muscles.

Chronic heavy alcohol use can lead to osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), malnutrition and muscle wasting and weakness.

Alcohol impairs judgement and concentration. Being drunk also alters mood and in increasing amounts leads to drowsiness and coma.

Long-term alcohol use can damage the brain and nerves, leading to pain, weakness, difficulty walking, epilepsy (chronic fits), sleep disturbances, memory loss and dementia.

Long-term alcohol use increases the risk of breast cancer. The higher the use the higher the risk of cancer.

Being drunk can cause blurred or double vision. Chronic heavy alcohol use, when combined with a diet low in vitamin B1 and B12, may lead to decreased vision.

The evidence for the effect of alcohol on the heart is mixed.

Heavy drinking increases the risk of coronary artery disease (which can cause heart attacks). It is also associated with irregular heartbeats, chronic disease of the heart muscle and heart failure.

Light alcohol use may reduce coronary artery disease in some older age groups.

Alcohol use can also be linked to high blood pressure.

The small intestine is where most of digestion occurs. Alcohol can block the absorption of many important vitamins and nutrients in the gut leading to malnutrition and diseases due to low vitamin levels.

Long-term alcohol use can cause cancer of the large intestine or bowel and rectum.

Alcohol has an effect on the kidneys’ functions. The kidneys filter blood, remove wastes and are also responsible for the re-absorption of water.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes water to be lost from the body and this can lead to dehydration.

Long-term alcohol use can damage the liver.

It can cause alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis (where liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue) and cancer.

Both being drunk and chronic heavy alcohol use can increase the risk of infections of the lungs (pneumonia).

Drinking alcohol can affect judgement and increase the chance of having unsafe sex, sex that is later regretted or experiencing sexual assault.

Chronic heavy alcohol use can lead to impotence in men and reduced fertility in both men and women.

Drinking alcohol can affect judgement and increase the chance of having unsafe sex, sex that is later regretted or experiencing sexual assault.

Chronic heavy alcohol use can lead to reduced fertility in both men and women.

Consuming alcohol while pregnant can have significant, long-term effects on the developing baby.

Alcohol can be used for relaxation and to relieve stress. It can also cause mood disorders, including depression, anxiety and psychosis.

Alcohol is addictive and can lead to dependency. This is when the body requires more alcohol to achieve the desired effect (eg, altered mood) and if alcohol is not taken, withdrawal symptoms occur. Symptoms include: shaking of the hands; increased heart rate; high temperature and blood pressure; hallucinations; and fits.

Alcohol can be used for relaxation and to relieve stress. It can also cause mood disorders, including depression, anxiety and psychosis.

Alcohol is addictive and can lead to dependency. This is when the body requires more alcohol to achieve the desired effect (eg, altered mood) and if alcohol is not taken, withdrawal symptoms occur. Symptoms include: shaking of the hands; increased heart rate; high temperature and blood pressure; hallucinations; and fits.

Being drunk can cause slurred and confused speech. Long-term alcohol use causes cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box (larynx).

Drinking alcohol can have direct and indirect effects on the skin.

Acute alcohol use can lead to skin flushing and worsen the appearance of skin conditions.

Chronic heavy alcohol use, when associated with serious liver disease and liver failure, can cause yellowing of the skin, decreased body hair and spider veins.

Being drunk can lead to nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, reflux (when acid from the stomach rises up into the food pipe) and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach).

Long-term alcohol use can cause cancer of the food pipe (oesophagus).

Chronic heavy alcohol use can lead to chronic gastritis and bleeding from the stomach and/or oesophagus.

The pancreas helps break down food and neutralises stomach acids. Alcohol use, particularly when heavy, can cause acute or chronic pancreatitis (inflammation and damage to the pancreas).

Can alcohol really cause death?
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Can alcohol really cause death?

Alcohol can cause death directly from drinking too much in one session, which can cause coma, reduced breathing and death or because it causes a fatal disease such as cancer.

Alcohol can also cause death indirectly, such as being a factor in a road traffic crash, a violent death or a suicide.